Home Grown and Healthy Food

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By Supriya Kumar

According to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), around 70 million school-age children live and attend school in hunger-stricken areas in sub-Saharan Africa. Working in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the WFP is hoping to address this problem using home grown school feeding (HGSF) programs.

WFP is providing nutritious food to school age children through its HGSF programs (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

HGSF is a school feeding program that provides locally produced food to schools in countries, including Brazil, Chile, India and Thailand. Like other school feeding programs, the focus is on alleviating hunger, while supporting education, nutrition and community development. The goal is to ensure a continuous supply of good quality and highly nutritious food that satisfy local preferences while protecting crop diversity. Unlike other school feeding programs, HGSF follows core principles that not only improve children’s food nutrition, but also increase the incomes of small scale farmers by creating an ongoing – and stable – market for their crops.

One important part of HGSF programs is that they are built on existing plans, not designed from scratch. Typically, a school feeding plan is developed by a country with the support of partners, such as WFP, and it may or may not utilize food that is locally produced. HGSF then develops the program by linking it with local agricultural production. In Kenya, for example, HGSF has helped develop links between existing programs and the government. HGSF provides grants and training to community-driven food security projects while the government provides grants to schools that can then purchase food produced by small-scale farmers participating in the community-driven food security projects.

By developing existing food programs, WFP ensures that programs are country-specific and are catered to the country’s needs. Although the underlying goal of the project is the same, local food preferences and the local agricultural situation are factors that might differ from region to region. For example, even though WFP prefers direct links between the small-scale farmers and the schools, to avoid expensive middlemen, exceptions were made in India’s “Midday Meals” (MDM) scheme. It was found that purchasing rice directly from farmers was not feasible because food for MDM had to be channeled through the public distribution system. WFP acknowledges that there is no single design that can fit all countries and adaptations are necessary for HGSF programs to be successful.

HGSF also helps increase farmers’ incomes by improving their access to the school feeding market and protecting them from rises in food prices. WFP, with partner organizations, help improve farmers’ access to inputs by providing information, training and support to small-scale farmers. In Malawi, the Rockefeller Foundation and the CNFA/Rural Market Development Trust (RUMARK) are supporting projects to improve the supply of agricultural inputs. By training and certifying over 300 agro-dealers across the country, farmers now can travel less to buy inputs from these agro-dealers, who are typically closer than the government owned Agricultural Development and Marketing Agency (ADMARK) or commercial companies.

Through these home-grown school feeding programs, WFP is helping to provide children with healthy and nutritious food while also creating long-lasting income opportunities for small-scale farmers in an effort to eradicate global hunger and poverty.

What do you think? What are some ways that we can provide children with nutritious food, while helping small-scale farmers? Let us know in the comments section!

To read more about school feeding programs, see: Guaranteeing the Right to Food one meal at a time, Innovation of the Week: Taking the Classroom to the Field, Cultivating a Passion for Agriculture and Innovation of the Week: Agriculture Education in School

Supriya Kumar is a research fellow for the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

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